The term villa was first born in the Latin period with a totally different meaning than the one we use it today for. Romans used the word with reference to their countryside residences constituting the heart of a farming business. They used the two nomenclature rustic villa and urban villa.
In the beginning, the rustic villa was a simple family-run business, where a family only produced what they needed to live. With the expansion of Rome’s dominion in the late Republican period, villa changed quickly expanding in size (200 – 250 hectares of land). The agricultural business, thanks to the numerous slaves ending up in Italy following the military campaigns, grew and allowed the owners to produce not just the minimum necessary to live but a surplus to be sold to the markets of the whole Europe.
The majority of Roman villas were built in central Italy, where implants reached their apex, much like the modern capitalistic economy. Production ranged from extensive plantations (olive trees and vines) to intensive production, orchards and even pastures.
Given the ability required to run such a business, several authors of the period started writing down some real agronomy treaty such as De agri cultura (Cato the Elder) and De re rustica (Marcus Terentius Varro).
The urban villa, conversely, started its life as a suburban residence, not far from the city and intended as a retreat from the city life for short/long periods of time. In time, these villas ended up incorporated (totally or partially) into the cities growing even bigger than the noble Domus and losing their (albeit minimal) agricultural function to become luxury residences surrounded by gardens and parks. It was not uncommon to find private thermal baths, libraries (extremely rare at the time) and even gyms.
With the fall of Rome, the villa radically changed its function. Barbaric invasions and the following period of war and violence convinced more and more noblemen to seek refuge away from the cities in fortified dwelling usually built on top of a hill. These residences inherited the functions of the Roman villa, being self-sufficient but not run using slaves. These fortified villas were the initial stage of the future process of encastellation in the feudal age.
Only during the Renaissance, with the treaties De re aedificatoria and Villa by Leon Battista Alberti, villas were brought back to their previous function of places for relaxation and idleness. The work by Vitruvius was undoubtedly inspiring and led to the construction of Villa Medici on the hill of Fiesole, first example of a villa where defensive features disappears, and Villa di Poggio a Caiano (Giuliano da Sangallo) which became the archetype for all the following Medicean villas in Tuscany.
16th and 17th century saw the construction of numerous villa around Rome: Villa Madama (designed and started by Raffaello and then completed by Giulio Romano), Villa Albani (not far from Porta Salaria), Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphilj and Villa Giulia are just the most notable examples.
Northern Italy was dominated by Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580) who designed and built unique villas by using a common base model made up of a central cubic body with entrances on the side reached via some beautiful staircases and framed in a pronaos recalling Greek and Roman temple (the Pantheon in Rome in particular).
Starting the in the 19th, and mainly the 20th century, the term villa has been used to refer to any luxury residence (both in the countryside and in the town centers), usually independent and fitted with a private garden. It is not uncommon, however, using the term to indicate a high-level terraced house built in a prestigious location in the city center (think of Monte Mario in Rome) or with a view over the sea (the Zuccale on Elba or the Amalfi Coast).
In a quiet and private position along the river Vienne we find this exquisite medieval château with park. The property features over 2,000 sqm of livable surface with a total of 24 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms and is currently working as a luxury boutique hotel. The park, designed by a famous Italian landscape architect, covers roughly 34,000 sqm and accommodated a heated 12 × 6 m swimming pool.
On the slopes of Monte Subasio, not far from Assisi and in the heart of the Umbrian countryside with an incredible panoramic view, 13.2-hectare estate with resort. The buildings (almost 1,500 sqm in total) have been carefully restored and now house a total of 20 guest bedrooms, an elegant wellness center and a restaurant. The 11,000-sqm garden houses the 12 × 6 m swimming pool.
In the heart of Chianti Classico, not far from Castellina, 159.9-ha estate with manorial villa, wine cellar and stone farmhouses currently used as an accommodation business. The vineyards (19.4 ha) allow producing up to 110,000 bottles of Chianti Classico DOCG wine per year, while the olive grove (21.2 ha) grants the production of approx. 5,000 kg of oil.
In Val d’Orcia, one of Italy’s finest UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a short distance from Castiglione d’Orcia, restored country house with guesthouse and olive grove. The property, surrounded by the woods and enjoying excellent privacy, has been carefully restored to preserve its charm intact and is nowadays a beautiful private home with 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. A barn to be restored and 160 olive trees complete the property.
In the Chianti hills, not far from Certaldo and Barberino Val d’Elsa, restored country villa with guesthouse, theater and pool for sale. The buildings (over 800 sq m) have been finely restored and converted into a charming boutique hotel with 13 bedrooms. The 11.7 hectares of land surrounding the villa include the park with swimming pool and a 4.4-ha olive grove.
On the hills of Umbria, in a very quiet and peaceful location, former Benedictine abbey converted into a luxury boutique hotel. The property has been finely restored taking into account its immense historical value and all the main features have been carefully preserved. Guests can count on 18 bedrooms, all with en-suite bathroom, a cozy restaurant, a 10,000-sqm park with pool and a unique atmosphere.
In Val d’Elsa, in the heart of the Sienese countryside, small restored rural hamlet with swimming pool. The property consists of three farmhouses (over 700 sqm) and is divided into nine independent apartments that are currently rented out with good results. The garden surrounding the buildings houses a 16 x 8 m swimming pool, an olive grove with 60 plants and a convenient private parking area.
In a hilly position, a short distance from a small town with all amenities, modern villa with park for sale. The building (196 sqm) is in good condition, already habitable, and houses three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a basement garage (64 sqm). The park surrounding the villa covers approximately 34,800 sqm and is fully fenced.
This restored villa is just 40 minutes from Florence, in an open and sunny position on the hills of Tuscany and Chianti Rufina. The building (450 sqm) is in excellent shape and currently features 6 bedrooms for the guests. Rooms are ample and bright thanks to the ample windows. Outside, the 2,500-sqm garden houses the 10 x 5 m swimming pool, a convenient parking area and some shaded areas where one can spend the hot sunny days of summer.
On the edge of a well-known village on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria but not far from Tuscany, boutique hotel for sale. The property has been tastefully renovated by the current pro-owners and is in full operation with 11 guest bedrooms, a gourmet restaurant and wellness center. The 18,000-sqm park surrounding the villa includes an elegant Italian garden, a small vineyard and several olive trees.
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